“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27

Last Friday Tanya, our vet, came out to give the horses their spring shots – rabies, west Nile virus, etc. Zippy received a few extra shots for diseases that I can’t begin to pronounce. On Saturday Zips will be going to the barn where Kath takes riding lessons and he will stay there for the month of April to get exercised and retrained for some serious riding. Zip is a former dressage champion, retired. And he’s had it good here, eating grass. Pretty much the only stress he has here is Patrick coming up behind him to nip him on his butt.

We bought the trailer so that Kath could take Patrick to the barn for lessons, but that didn’t work out too well. Patrick didn’t mind, but he isn’t very athletic and has some kind of gait that the trainers didn’t want to work with. They pretty much said he’s a great trail horse, but his body was never meant for ballet. One of those “I like you, but lets just  be friends…” deal. So they asked what else we had….

Lou only walks, unless he smells a peppermint, or if Patrick nips him in the butt – then he will run. But we pretty much figured that the trainers weren’t going to offer him peppermints and I couldn’t quite picture Sophia or Illona sneaking up behind him and biting him in the butt to get him to move…trainers aren’t born with too much of a sense of humor. Lou wasn’t gonna work, so it was no use to even contemplate it.

So that left Zips. And so poor ol Zips got marched into that new trailer that was meant for Patrick and sped off to the barn for a trial.  ‘Ol Zips did all the right moves and had the right gait or whatever…things that trainers know about but something I may never understand. Dumb ‘ol Zips – had he been smart enough and trotted out of whack and not responded to Sophie’s heel, he’d been home free and left to enjoy grass and retirement and hang out with me in the back field. Just like Patrick and Lou. But no, not Zip! he decided to show off. The dummy.

So this Saturday he will be loaded into the trailer for an extended stay. He will get good care. During the week he will get exercised and put in shape. He will get re trained to get his responses sharpened up. Kath will go over every Saturday to take lessons on him. He’ll be fine.

But I will miss him. Sorta like sending your kids off to college – ya know it’s a good thing, and the right thing, but it still leaves that bit of emptiness that never gets totally refilled….

The problem with me and animals is that I get way too attached. Way too attached.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Spring’s here! The light is lasting longer as the earth’s wobble tilts us closer to the sun.

Today the bees were bringing in pollen – grey, yellow, white, and red – from crocus, daffodils, etc, and from trees, especially the swamp maples that are bursting with petite red flowers. Some bees were fat with nectar as they landed; a sure sign that honey is starting to be made, and brood is being fed.

The chickens are laying more eggs each day now. The 25 chickens average about 18-20 eggs every week in the winter and as the days get longer, laying increases each week. Chickens are scheduled by the sun. Last week we were up to about 50 eggs, and today alone we collected 11. (I guess for 25 chickens it could be more, but not all of them lay eggs anymore because they are up there in years. I let my chickens live out their life here…I figure that they’ve provided for me and it’s only right for me to provide for them in return.) By early summer, we might top out at about 70 eggs a week, and then a little less as the heat slows the girls down a bit.

It’s also the shedding season. Now, when we groom any of the hippos, the brush gets so full of hair in just a few strokes that it needs to be cleaned out. Same is true when I brush Snoops. Small birds swoop down now and then to pick up what hair lands on the ground and use it for making their nests. Nature doesn’t let much go to waste. It’s almost as if it’s all planned out and everything timed to fit together…

The wild turkeys are putting on shows each day – in the back yard and front pasture, males are strutting with their feathers all puffed out. Wooing the hens…the guys look like mummers without the banjoes. A lot of people complain about all the turkeys these days, but I like them. Years ago there were no turkeys in the county, as they had been hunted out. The state department of Fish and Game reintroduced them, and coupled with new hunting laws, the turkeys have flourished. It is a success story that in some areas has been too successful, and these areas are over run with them. Not so here. At least not yet. We have two main flocks – one of 39 and one of 23 that move through here. Soon the hens will be nesting and the flocks will temporarily break up. Come June the females will band together and raise the chicks. By late summer the flocks will re form and roam the woods and fields. I have never tired of watching this cycle. Wild turkeys are so cool!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4, 2012

Boy did it rain the other night…the thunder and lightning seemed to go on forever. It stayed over us for so long that it seemed the storm somehow got stuck to our house. The rain just pounded and the thunder shook every window and the lightning snapped and lit up the dark like rapid strobes.

I walked out to the field the morning after and the water was laying everywhere. Everywhere I looked was ponded with water…just a mess.

By the afternoon much of the water had begun to drain back into the earth, and I noticed that the pastures had a new green tint to them. The grass had greened up a bit. It wasn’t the rain that caused it, but the nitrogen that was produced from all the lightning. Lightning energizes the sky and causes nitrogen to combine with oxygen, and that makes nitrate, which is one of the forms of nitrogen that a plant can use. (I am no chemist - my brother is the one with the PhD in that – but I really do know this!) I have seen this greening so many times after a storm that I have pretty much come to expect it, especially in the spring.  It’s one of the ways Natures feeds plants…


I planted turnips back in August right before hurricane Irene hit. Somehow this one survived the beating rain and didn’t get washed away or broken down. It was a strong seedling. A few others survived the hurricane but never really got going, and only produced very small bulbs/ roots. But something told me that this one was special. Something told me not to pull this one. Something said to just let it grow. Here it is, a little over six months old and still growing. The best I can measure her, she is about 9 in diameter and has a 26 inch circumference. I’m just going to let her grow as long as she will. I even named her Irene, after the storm! Only a farmer would have a pet turnip….or maybe just I would.


Way back in January I bought a used greenhouse. I should capitalize USED to describe it! The hoops were twisted, some bent, some broken at the apex; anchors were broken; the plywood front and back was a bit rotted. But the greenhouse had a few good things going for it – a huge shade cloth, four year plastic, an older fan that was in good condition, benches, and thermostats. The other thing it had going for it was that I had time on my hands and I needed something to do.

Friends of mine, my son, his friends, and I traveled thirty miles to Buena with a borrowed trailer and over a few days, disassembled it and hauled it back to the farm in pieces, all of us knowing that it would never go back together the same way that it had come apart. The first week of February I began salvaging the good hoops and other parts and began putting it up – because not all of its pieces could be reused, I settled on putting up half of what was the original. I am happy with that.

It’s almost finished. In another week I hope to have the plastic on and I might even begin growing stuff in there. My real plan though is to use it as a high tunnel in the fall/ winter, planting directly into the soil underneath. With double plastic it should stay warm enough without using a heating system. I am sure this, like everything else I have done here, will be a learning experience that will build upon itself year after year.